The Restless Allure of Gabriel Black & phem’s Beautiful “dead yet”

Dead Yet - Gabriel Black Phem
Gabriel Black and Phem’s powerful “dead yet” is a passionate and raw outpouring of restless energy that is at once hypnotic, draining, and altogether inspiring.
Stream: “dead yet” – gabriel black, phem


I’m just a dog chasing rabbits in the sky; tied to your waist, I’m on a chain, I’ll never fly.

Often the very best songs are the ones that leave us speechless – amazed, out of breath, and at a total loss for words (yes, this happens even to us music writers). That magic lies in music’s ability to affect us in ways that extend far beyond the boundaries of language alone, in ways so difficult to describe that a written article just doesn’t do justice to the act of press play and simply listening to a song. Such is the experience of Gabriel Black and Phem’s powerful new song “dead yet,” a passionate and raw outpouring of restless energy that is at once hypnotic, draining, and altogether inspiring.

dead yet - Gabriel Black, phem

dead yet – Gabriel Black, phem

there ain’t nothing goin’ on
‘round here tonight

you passed out on me,
I guess I’ll hit the lights

is this all we do,
smoke in your room at 2am

it might be cool with you
but I’m not dead yet

Some songs just need to be heard in order to be understood, and “dead yet” is one of those songs.

Maybe it’s the resounding disenchantment in Phem’s aching vocals; perhaps it’s the reserved, yet somehow immersive blend of synths and overdriven guitars supporting in a not-so-distant background; or maybe it’s the doomed sense that the narrator’s need for relief and release will never be fully realized in this lifetime.

Hailing from Pennsylvania and now based in California, Gabriel Black released his debut EP beautiful life last year. His music defies generic definitions, drawing inspiration from hip-hop, rock, emo, grunge, and much more. Hillydilly recently described his music as “self-deprecating alternative-pop,” and while there’s something to be said of the artist’s tendency to avoid rose-colored glasses, it’s his music that perpetuates this sinking sensation of darkness lurking just around the corner.

Phem proves the perfect match-up to Black’s artistic voice. The Los Angeles native born Liv Marsico released her own debut EP Can’t Kill Me on Valentine’s Day 2018, eschewing a similar “outsider status” as Black through her own defiant, pulsing sounds (i-D has a wonderful interview for those interested in learning more). Together, Phem and Black paint a pained portrait of stagnation and urgency – but “dead yet” is much more than the musical manifestation Millennial and Gen Z anxiety.

Born out of a world in which fear and hate-mongering are on the rise – where school shootings and overdoses claim the lives of far too many young adults well before their time – “dead yet” is an anthemic assertion of autonomy and utility: It’s an underdog’s reclamation.

I’m just a dog chasing rabbits in the sky
tied to your waist, I’m on a chain, I’ll never fly
is this all we do, smoke in your room at 2am
it might be cool with you but I’m not dead yet

Black and Phem’s jaw-dropping chorus says it all: They’re taking control of life at a time where doom has driven us to the point of lethargy, apathy, and fatigue. Rising up out of inertia, “dead yet” injects energy into stagnation so as to revive a derailed train, shake off the dead weights, and get back to living. Joie de vivre feels the most powerful when you’ve lost all hope, and this song marks the very beginning of the upswing: That pivotal moment where you choose life, and commit to doing, being, and feeling better.

you used to be my heaven
now you’re just hell
ain’t no way to stop it
you got me on your spell
baby you’re a rocket
but your engine burned out
and penguins fly higher
than you can dream now
yeah, dinner lunch n’ breakfast
talkin’ ‘bout the same shit
living in in a rerun
looking for the reset
guess this is the best
it will ever get
maybe I should go ahead and
paint the room red
Gabriel Black © 2019

Gabriel Black © 2019

Gabriel Black © 2019

Gabriel Black © 2019

I’m just a dog chasing rabbits in the sky
tied to your waist, I’m on a chain, I’ll never fly
is this all we do, smoke in your room at 2am
it might be cool with you but I’m not dead yet
there ain’t nothing goin’ on ‘round here tonight
you passed out on me, I guess I’ll hit the lights
is this all we do, smoke in your room at 2am
it might be cool with you but I’m not dead yet

Draining as it certainly feels, “dead yet” leaves us with the buoyant feeling that things just might turn around, after all.

Gabriel Black and Phem have crafted an astonishingly heavy, moving song whose balance of light and dark themes and sounds cuts us deep down to our core. “dead yet” asserts life, hence unsettling as it may at times make us feel, this song is unequivocally and indescribably beautiful.

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:: stream/purchase “dead yet” here ::
Stream: “dead yet” – gabriel black, phem

 

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dead yet - Gabriel Black, phem

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Mitch Mosk

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com